Federal regulations require that each resident of a nursing home receive the necessary care and services to attain or maintain physical and mental health. Residents who are unable to independently carry out daily activities, such as grooming and eating, are entitled to receive the highest level of services needed to maintain good nutrition and personal hygiene. Also, it is required that nursing home facilities provide each resident with a nourishing, well-balanced diet that meets the special dietary needs of each resident. Therefore, nursing homes must employ qualified dietitians and sufficient support staff and provide assistive devices and special eating equipment for residents who need them. Failure of a nursing home facility to follow dietary regulations can result in serious injuries of residents, due to dehydration and malnutrition-both of which are preventable.
Since patients are often dependent on staff members to provide them with water and food, they are especially vulnerable to dehydration and malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to confusion, muscles weakness, bacterial and viral infections and even death. To ensure the overall health of residents is maintained, a nursing home must also maintain medically trained staff. Federal nursing home regulations state that a facility must have 24 hour licensed nursing services and a registered professional nurse for at least 8 consecutive hours every day (under some circumstances there can be waivers of these requirements as long as it does not endanger the health or safety of the residents). When nursing homes fail to maintain adequate levels of staffing, residents are sometimes neglected or abused by overworked, stressed-out staff members.
Here at the Brod Law Firm, we are sometimes asked why nursing home abuse occurs. The following are typical reasons. Low wages and large numbers of residents assigned to each staff member lead to high turnover rates, which leads to mismanaged care. It is often the case that knowledge of the specific needs of residents is lost with high turnover rates, as there is little time for each new trainee to get to know their residents. As result, new trainees feel overworked and unable to meet the needs of residents, then stay a short time and quit. And the cycle goes on and on. Sadly, this happens because most of the nursing home industry is for-profit. As such, these corporations, in order to increase their net profits, try to keep their staffing costs low and hire fewer staff members than is required. So, when staff members place food in front of residents who can’t feed themselves and then don’t bother to assist them, it is essentially the same as starving them.